Iranian dissidents, representatives from the British and European Parliaments, democracy advocates, international dignitaries, activists and over 300 Iranian opposition groups are set to march on Paris on June 27th to protest the lack of democratic freedoms in Iran under the nation’s religious extremist regime. Last year’s demonstrations drew over 100,000 supporters and representatives from across the European political divide. This year, protesters are aiming their sights on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s failed human rights record and the government’s continued defiance of international efforts to end its uranium enrichment programs.
Iran’s human rights record under Rouhani has been the subject of intense criticism from Western governments and human rights advocates since he took office in August of 2013. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Human Rights Report, the Iranian government routinely restricts civil liberties, manipulates elections, and disregards the health and safety of prisoners, especially political prisoners. Abuses include court-ordered amputations and corporal punishment, politically motivated violence, denial of due process and fair trials, the impunity of security forces, severe restrictions on freedoms of assembly, religion and speech, especially on the Internet, and discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and women. The march on Paris by Iran dissidents this year will include LGBT activists and women’s rights advocacy groups.
According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the government of Iran executed 624 prisoners in revolutionary courts in 2013 without due process, 46 percent of which have not been reported by the government. Most of the executions were carried out by the Rouhani regime since he took office in August of that year, a fact which has drawn worldwide attention and condemnation. Offenses that merit the death penalty in Iran include drug trafficking, apostasy, atheism, adultery, homosexual acts, and insulting Islamic prophets. Lord Carlile of Berriew, the leader of the Britain’s Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, called Rouhani’s presidency “a devastating period of brutality.”
Despite the recent talks in Geneva between the U.S. and Iranian officials regarding Iran’s uranium enrichment program, many obstacles still remain before an accord can be reached, including an agreement on the number of centrifuges allowed and a ban on plutonium enrichment. Both the British and European Parliamentary delegations have issued strong statements condemning Iran’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapon capability. The U.S. State Department is expected to release its statement in concert with the opening of the political gathering on June 27th.
Of concern also to the demonstrators in Paris is the fate of Camp Ashraf located 44 miles from the western border of Iran in the Diyala province of Iraq. Camp Ashraf was the home of Iran’s main opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), until September of 2013 when 52 residents were handcuffed and murdered in a pre-dawn raid by Iraqi Security Forces. Many Iranian exiles believe the massacre was a politically motivated assassination orchestrated by the Rouhani regime. Camp Ashraf is currently vacated and its residents moved to Camp Liberty in the center of Baghdad. The Iranian exiles in POMI/MEK do not expect to return until they get assurances of their safety from the United Nations and the Iraqi government.
New this year in the Iranian dissidents’ march on Paris is the inclusion of an Internet and social media campaign orchestrated by younger activists. With strong Western government support, social media publicity and the backing of human rights groups worldwide, the Iran dissidents that march on Paris in late June hope to bring the world’s attention to the abuses of human rights under Hassan Rouhani and solidify Western resolve for permanent change in the oppressed nation.
By Steven Killings